What is Gliding?


Gliders, or sail-planes as they are sometimes called, are essentially, aeroplanes without engines. The significant difference between aeroplanes and gliders is the length of the wings - they’re longer on a glider. The additional length of the gliders wing makes for a much more efficient flying machine and enables gliders to fly great distances using only the natural energy of the sky. Glider pilots learn how to use that energy to gain height and stay airborne.

What does gliding feel like?

It's been said that flying is so much fun it should be banned. It's actually a little bit like sailing in that we use the natural energy of the sky to fly, indeed, the dynamics of flight are quite fluid. It can be dramatic, challenging and exciting. On a good flying day, you could be soaring with the birds or playing with the clouds. It can give you an incredible sense of freedom, independence and achievent. After a flight you'll often feel very alive and excited - it's a real confidence booster.

What experience do I need?

None at all. You will receive full training by qualified instructors who will introduce you to the gliders and teach you how to fly them. As your gliding experience builds, you’ll find you'll be spending more and more time at the controls until you're just taking the instructor for a nice ride around the sky. When the instructor feels confident, you'll fly your first solo flight.

Where is the club located?

The club is located at the Bicester Gliding Centre, (formerly RAF Bicester) a few miles north-east of Oxford. Club training days are Wednesdays (pm), Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, national Holidays and specially organised training and soaring weeks throughout the year. During the summer, self-authorising solo pilots can fly all week. See the Location page for traveling information and directions.

How much does it cost?

A flying lesson at the airfield is cheaper than a night out in Oxford! During the soaring season, one hour flying would only cost around £25. Information about costs and membership can be found on the memberships page. Also, check-out the information on bursaries, you may be eligible to get a significant portion of your flying paid for!

Where else can you fly?

Expeditions to mountain wave and ridge sites for a bit of 'rock polishing' or high altitude are really good fun. Whizzing along a mountain side or seeing the world from 20,000 feet is all part of the adventure. We've flown in the mountains of Shropshire, Wales, Scotland and the French Alps.

Is there such a thing as glider racing?

Absolutely. If you're the competitive type and you like a bit of fast action flying then this is for you. Competitions or glider races are organised during the soaring season. The 'Comps' as they're known, usually last for a week or so and involve flying a task, often hundreds of kilometres in length, at very high speeds. Bicester airfield can host as many as 70 or 80 gliders in a race and it's very exciting. The Comps' are usually great fun and even pre-solo pilots get the chance to experience flying a task with an instructor. And when you're solo, you could fly in the inter-uni or junior national competitions too.

How safe is it?

Flying safely is all about maintaining good spatial awareness and keeping a good lookout for other aircraft, otherwise known as the 'see and avoid' principle; being mindful of the weather conditions, generally employing sensible flying technique. Gliding is an adventure sport and like most things in life, does involve some level if risk. But with proper training and sensible airmanship it's generally regarded to be reasonably safe. For information on safety issues, see the Safety Information page.